The Idiocy of the Families Fly Together Act of 2012

Airline advance seat assignments are something that many people value, as evidenced by the fact that people are willing to pay for them, and elites consider it a benefit worth their loyalty when they receive the ‘best’ coach seats without paying a premium.

And clearly enough families consider them to be important such that Mommy Points is wondering whether government should get involved to make airlines give those assignments to parties traveling together, for free and a member of Congress is grandstanding on the issue to boot.

Most airlines offer advance seat assignments. If you can’t get seats together, book a different flight where you can.

If there are seats together at a price premium, pay the premium to the extent it’s worth some amount of money to sit together.

This may sound cold-hearted but there are plenty of things that families need while traveling that cost extra, from car seats or harnesses to extra bags and diapers, issues that Mommy Points has written about before. The whole point of her blog is that family travel has certain needs, can be much more expensive (not the least of which because you’re buying more tickets!), and so she helps folks to figure out how to make their travels more affordable.

Seat assignments are a product that in some cases comes at a price, and families need to plan for that. In the case of the “Families Flying Together Act” that asks the government to redistribute from airlines to families but not other passengers.

Most people don’t realize that by many measures Southwest Airlines is the largest domestic airline. They don’t do advance seat assignments which means that seats for families remain available at boarding time. Check in online, plan ahead, get seats together.

The point here is that families do in many cases have a choice to fly the airline whose policies best fit their needs.

In any case, how are airlines supposed to comply with a requirement that families be seated together? Are they supposed to build projection models for the number of business travelers versus families on a given flight, e.g. set aside more “family seating” on weekend Florida runs than Thursday 6pm flights between major cities? And then build out the IT infrastructure to determine passengers under age 12 on an itinerary with older passengers and then open up premium seating to them? And what if the flight is already full? Or there are more families than expected onboard? Or a flight cancels and a family has to be re-accomodated, would offering to seat families apart on the next available flight constitute a violation of the regulations, and should families thus only be offered the next flight on which they might travel together? Or should passengers with confirmed seat assignments be bumped from those in order to seat families together?

One way to solve this would be to eliminate advance seat assignments altogether but that would be destroying value, we’ve already seen that advance seat assignments are something people in general want and are willing to pay for.

But why impose an additional regulatory tax on airlines, already one of the highest taxed industries and one which while profitable in 2012 has not earned a net profit over the course of the entire last century?

It’s equally plausible that one might start a program to redistribute general tax revenue to families to reimburse seating fees. That at least wouldn’t carry nearly the same unintended consequences.

Except that advance seat assignments are the kinds of things that families can and should plan around. They can read the Mommy Poiints blog and watch her Travel Channel videos and be prepared to make their travel easier.

None of which requires an act of Congress.

Ultimately the Families Fly Together Act says more about that august body than it does about the airline industry…

As the 501(c)4 issue ads on television might close with, “Contact Jarold Nadler. Tell him he’ll never out-Chuck Schumer Chuck Schumer, and that he shouldn’t even try. Vote No on H.R. 6124.”

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I think it is sad that this is the sort of thing that government would have to consider being involved with, but I do think it is becoming more and more of an issue for traveling families. As you point out, there are tons of things that families can and should do to secure seat assignments together, but even that doesn’t help in all situations. Additionally, many families just travel once every now and then and don’t even know to be that proactive on this issue. They (reasonably) assume that the airline will give them seats next to their children.

    Families don’t need a red carpet roped off section reserved just for them, but I don’t think it unreasonable to trust that an airline will seat me next to my two-year-old when we fly. Whether I am on Southwest, United, American, or another carrier, that should (in my mind) be a constant.

    While I obviously am more than happy to help traveling families make the most of their trips – sadly I think the ones that would possibly benefit the most by this sort of proposed rule aren’t the ones on blogs, forums, Travel Channel, etc. They are the ones who book a last minute trip to a family funeral, or take one vacation every couple years, etc. They aren’t overly familiar with airlines procedures, and can face some real stress and confusion when they are handed boarding pass in different sections of the plane.

    Always fun to read a different opinion on these sorts of issues though. 😉

  2. One of the silliest posts yet.

    If seats are available together at seat selection time, a family should be offered seats together without additional charge. This is NOT the same thing as an individual or couple choosing a better or worse seat because this is not a choice — it is not reasonable or humane to expect a two or three year old child to be separated from his or her parent in this way.

    Instead, it is extortion: pay the fee or we’ll make your child cry.

    (Note: I have no problem if the airline blocks seats in the last few rows for this purpose. Travelers who want better seats up front will still be incentivized to pay out. In fact, I’ve always supported of the idea of a “family cabin” to the extent that it’s possible to implement one.)

    While this is primarily seen as a protection for families, it is actually a protection for EVERYONE.

    Honestly, Gary, do you want to be seated next to MP’s (very lovely) two year old without MP being there? What if she pukes? What if your drink spills on her during turbulence? What if she needs help with her tray table? What if her finger gets pinched in the tray table while you’re helping her (assuming you do help her)? I think your opposition is based on the assumption that parents will give in to the extortion, but if they refuse I don’t imagine you’d be a happy flier.

    This is NOT a “new” right being established, it is a return to common and historical community standards in the face of a very substantial change in business practices.

    Finally, I wonder how many people who consider this “loony” are keeping their fingers crossed that the DOT regulators step in and forces United to honor their mistake redemption(s) over the weekend.

  3. To be clear I absolutely think it’s better for families to travel together. I do NOT want to be seated next to someone else’s child without them there to tend to that child. My only point is that not every thing that is obvious is actually made better by legislation. I think the tarmac delay rule is actually quite bad, for instance, even though I am opposed to long tarmac delays. And no, I do not think that the DOT ought to step in to force United to honor the 4 mile Hong Kong tickets I broke the news on.

  4. I agree with the bottom line. Vote no on this.

    Once again breeders feel their rights are more important than mine.

  5. As someone who deals with federal administrative law for a living, the first thing I thought when I read Congressman Nadler’s proposed law is that this proposal to force the DOT to issue regulations is far too vague. Regardless of whether you support the laws intent (and I do), there is simply no way to know how this law would be implemented. Although one hopes the DOT implements this regulation in a common sense manner, there is certainly guarantee they will do so. For example, one could easily see the regulation making it financially attractive for an airline to force a family whose flight has been cancelled to wait 36 hours for a flight where they could be seated together instead of putting them on a flight 10 hours later, seated apart, with the chance to ask people to switch seats with them. Most people would agree the airlines should seat families together under normal conditions. But it is not possible for anyone to know how this regulation would work when something goes wrong and flights get cancelled or delayed.

  6. I’m certain that the recent trend of reserving many coach seats for elites and other travellers willing to pay extra for them is making it more difficult to pre-reserve a block of seats together. Like I recently saw an AA seat chart for a flight 2 months in advance and the only “public” seats were middle seats stretching down the whole aircraft. That said, are airlines really not accomodating families who want to sit together? Oh, sure, I’m certain that families are now getting worse seats than they used to, but I’m highly skeptical that parents are being split up from babies.

    And, as Gary correctly notes, families can vote with their feet and choose airlines (like Southwest) which make the process a little easier. No reason why gov’t intervention is necessary to solve this modest problem.

  7. If this was a problem that had a monatary payback, an airline would have created a product for it. In todays day and age, airlines have charged for EVERYTHING. Why not a ‘family sit together fee?’ It just doesn’t scale well. Unlike Gary sometimes, I am in favor of some government regulation (such as the tarmac rule) but in this case it would be SUCH an impediment to the airlines to implement it would perhaps ruin flying. Also, if you extend the thinking out further, why stop at flying? How about trains? NYC subways? Buses? Food establishments? “I don’t care if you have no 6 person tables, the law says you have to split that non_family group up!” Also, where does ‘family’ end? Cousins? Family friends traveling with others? And at what age can we expect kids to be able to sit apart? 14?

  8. How many have you been on a flight, sitting comfortably in you chair, somewhat relaxed as people pass you by. And then it happens, a distraught or flummoxed parent asking you to switch seats because the airline has separated them from their child or children.
    It is easy to blame the parents for not forking out $25/35 per person to get advanced seat assignments. I more apt to blame the airline who treat passengers solely as revenue producing cattle. If go online and buy 4 tickets (at the same time on the same PNR) on any airline, I expect the airline to seat us together.

    In this case, I am in favor of the regulation especially when the airlines do not wish to do the right thing by their customers and have proven that they are unable to regulate themselves.

  9. Families with young children slow down the boarding process, and often abuse the carry-on limits. They should be charged more for their tickets and then given seats together (in the back of the plane). I can’t wait until airlines start charging fees for lap babies.

  10. I would like to sit with my family on flights. However, I do not want Congress creating special legislation to make that easier for me. It’s silly.

  11. @Gary: Not everything that is obvious is made better by regulation. But some things are.

    That an airline would demand an additional payment to not separate a small child from his or her mother shocks the conscience; that we’re even discussing the issue demonstrates the breakdown of the moral character of this country.

    This is an appropriate matter for regulation.

  12. I have two kids under four and I know that nobody else would want to sit next to them. Which is why we choose seats well in advance or, if necessary, pay for them.

    I swear, I don’t know what it is about the airline industry that turns half the world into Socialists. The industry survives on razor-thin margins, has total accumulated losses and faces a customer base that would switch flights to save a nickel.

    You can’t have it all. We all want great service, huge seats and individualized attention, but few are willing to pay for it, which is why ticket prices have come down since deregulation.

    I’m not arguing that the industry is perfect-far from it. But I see no reason why it shouldn’t be able to charge what it wants. If you don’t want to fly a particular airline, that’s fine; Don’t. If you can’t afford to pay for tickets or the few bucks for a seat assignment, then maybe you shouldn’t be on the airplane. That may sound cold, but there are things that I want that I can’t afford to buy. I wouldn’t demand a government mandate.

  13. Dead on Gary as usual. The point of this isn’t about families being able to sit next to their kids for free. (Yeah! I am all for it, among millions of other things I’d like for free!) It is about government using its monopoly power on force to “extort” airlines to price their service in a way government wants. People (and governments) have unlimited wants, so once we start letting the government determine who gets what (too late I know, but humor me here) where does it end? Just remember a government powerful enough to give you whatever you want is powerful enough to take it all away.

  14. No new rules are necessary. Gate agents do their best to accommodate families, and if families plan ahead they’ll either be able to get seats together or will just have one or two members with disjointed seating, an easy problem to fix at the gate. Plus, if there aren’t seats together then do your best to grab seats that someone might be willing to trade for…an aisle toward the back of the plane might be a better option for someone sitting in a middle seat further forward.

    Maybe it’s time to start a travel service aimed at families who have no clue how to fly.

  15. The only thing missing from this combustible combination of 1. Non-family fliers vs Family fliers and 2) Those in favor of more gov/regulations vs those who want less govt/regs is basically religion. 😉

    I am torn on this issue (probably because I can see valid points from both sides). That being said, as long as there is fair competition and choice provided, generally the government’s role should be to take a backseat. Of course this may mean families may not sit all together on a plane – and that may mean elites in a preferred row seat may have a toddler next to them. This would apply to first class too – if one is going to say pay extra for right to sit together, then that same family has the right to sit in first.

  16. @Larry

    The problem with legislation is that I could be forced to give up a seat that I paid for so that families can set together. If I’ve planned my flight out in advance, and paid for the seat accordingly, I’m going to resent having to give up my carefully selected seat for someone who couldn’t be bothered to book and plan as early as me.

    MommyPoints thinks that it’s entirely reasonable to expect that the airline will seat her next to her two-year old. She’s right. I think it’s perfectly reasonable that I get to sit in the seat I paid for months in advance.

    The problem is, there are plenty of situations where one of us won’t get our way, and TBH, I resent the government deciding that they should be the mediators in that situation. The older I get, the more I hate government interference, because they don’t pass laws that solve problems, they pass laws that appease people politically (many times fellow congressmen, not constituents).

    The airline can have whatever policy they want, and I support that, even if I get the short end of the stick. I resent government thinking they know better. They might *know* better, but they don’t *do* better.

  17. @Michael

    The problem with the tarmac rule is that it is a very harsh penalty that kicks in without progression. This creates incentives for the airline to cancel flights that otherwise would have operated. Would you prefer to sit on the tarmac for 3 hours, or wait 2 days for the next available flight when your flight cancels?

    Yes, it can really come down to that. FAA rules prohibit pilots from *flying* more than 8 hours per day. If an airline pushes a flight out with the expectation that the pilots will be at the controls for more than 8 hours, they are in violation of the law. However, if the flight pushes *and then* the pilots are notified of any delay that push them over 8 hours, it is still legal to operate the flight. Here’s the kicker: If the airline calls the flight back to the gate for any reason (say to avoid the tarmac delay penalties) that crew is no longer able to operate the flight. If no spare crew is available, the airline must cancel the flight.

    Because of the way the rule is structured, it creates incentives to avoid pushing into the three hours, period. They’ll start calling flights back around the 2-2.5 hour mark to avoid that. Would you rather take a 3.5 hour delay on the tarmac, or wait 2 days for the next available flight? This rule takes that choice away from you, and more importantly, from the airline. If the penalties were progressive, the airline could run more flights in borderline cases.

  18. Hey Joe – Lap babies do have to pay internationally. I love your comment that parents ‘abuse’ the carry on limits. How, exactly? I know that I wish I could come on with a small purse and nothing else but I have to come with every trick in my bag so my children don’t bother your delicate sensibilities. But I have never seen an airline allow parents to carry on more than they are allowed, and, in fact, most families check their bags because they already have their hands full with their kids. It is everyone else who tries to shove huge bags overhead so they don’t have to check them.

    People will complain about this because they don’t think babies/kids should be flying regardless. But that is a whole different, played out argument.

  19. And, fwiw, I don’t think an entire family needs to be together. But there should be ONE parent with ONE child. That doesn’t seem unreasonable.

  20. Often when booking tickets within a few weeks there are no regular economy seats left, only seats which require an extra $10 to $179 etc. I can see how it is a source of stress for families.

  21. I should imagine that, were this nonsense to become law, airlines which offer advance seat reservations would charge a $xx premium for every child they carry. This would effectively buy blocked or premium seating and, in the case of misconnections etc. could be used to bribe others to move seats.

  22. I’ve seen people with lots of kids. What does the legislation say about families traveling with 3 or more kids?

  23. I don’t see how by my adding +1 to my family unit gives me the right to demand someone else give up a seat that they most likely paid extra and planned for. This generation of Americans is becoming more entitled by the second and it is disgusting. Always wanting something for nothing and the expectation that one group is somehow more important than another.

  24. Not sure why families believe they should be in a protected group shielded from extra fees due to their supposed “needs”. If they want to sit together they need to pay the fees required at booking, the same way that my spouse and I do if we want to ensure adjoining seats.

    Hate to say it, but these family groups are coming across as a needy, entitled, whining bunch. They want to pre-board, they think we should carry their crap on board for them, they think we should be amused when they let their kids roam all over the plane crying and I have even seen suggestions we should all remain seated so they can deplane their little darlings first. When will it be enough?

    Maybe I should start up my own group requiring special protection for passengers over 50 so we get everything we want for free as well.

  25. I think families should be allowed to sit together but only in non premium seats and for free whenever available
    Once those seats are sold out they should simply look for alternative flight times or other carriers enen if isn’t to their preference
    When the elite seats are gone on the carriers I am elite with I choose other flight times as seat comfort and the ability to travel with loved ones is important to me.Alternatively when I am not elite on a carrier and regardless of who I travel with family or otherwise I expect to pay if seated together and in a premium seat area.
    If one can’t afford the seat assignment they are on the wrong carrier or shouldn’t be flying.Sometimes flying is cheap and sometimes it is not
    When balanced historically flying remains a fantastic value even if the pricing is all redesigned for the customer to choose rather than expect the old model of bundled pricing where everything is included.
    The government should work on the security crisis in this country starting with those horrible x ray radiation machines rather then mess with this silly family proposal of seating families by laws
    Just another opinion out there

  26. I completely agree with the proposed Act. I have been stuck seated next to child separated by their parents by the idiotic current policy and it’s no fun.

    Children should always be seated next to their parents. ALWAYS.

    Incidentally, it’s ironic to see this generation being called “entitled” when they are the ones that are stuck with paying our social security, while we grew up with free seat assignments, priority boarding, and stewardesses (that’s what they called them then) that both carried and stowed our family carry-ons for us. In Economy class.

  27. I have no doubt that Gary’s (and many other commenter’s) opinions will change 180-degrees if he decides to have children of his own, travel with them, and face this scenario for himself.

  28. @Dan:

    I see no evidence at all that this regulation would lead to cancelling existing seat assignments, but it’s hard to know since the legislation simply directs the DOT to develop a regulation rather than spelling out the final form of the regulation.
    What this is intended to address is the deliberate breaking up of parties when contiguous seating is available solely for the purpose of extracting more money. In the case of adults, that extraction is more-or-less voluntary. In the case of families, it’s essentially involuntary.
    If the final regulation only covered that much (contiguous seating when available) it would go most of the way to bringing the airline back into compliance with civilized behavior.
    What happens if a family books so late that there are no contiguous seats available in the correct cabin? That’s not a problem if it can be resolved by re-assigning people who didn’t pay for special consideration.
    Finally, if the family books day-of and there are literally only three or fours seats unassigned and scattered through the plane then I think the reasonable thing to do would be to leave it to the gate agents, on-board crew, and other passengers to handle.

  29. @Toula:
    “Not sure why families believe they should be in a protected group”
    First off, children are a widely (perhaps the most widely) protected group in society; there is an entirely different set of laws that govern them and adults. Do you support removing age-of-consent laws? Alcohol sales to minors?
    Secondly, the extraction of additional money to seat children next to their parents is qualitatively different from sitting two adults next to each other. In the later case it is purely voluntary, in the former it is essentially involuntary.
    Thirdly, you impute a list of desires to “families” that are both insulting and, in my experience, completely false. They represent an animus that suggest that your desire is not to achieve fairness but rather to punish one segment of society.
    Finally, when you suggest that special consideration be given to people over 50 I will simply remind you that any passenger “needing extra time to board” is generally given boarding preference, and that wheelchairs and personal assistance is provided free of charge. No doubt you support a $25 “early boarding for people with walkers fee” and a $40 per time wheelchair fee to recoup the money that “those people” expect you to pay (through your ticket) to accommodate them?

  30. @LarryInNYC – Oh my, it just SHOCKS YOUR CONSCIENCE does it!? It’s nice to know you’ll be first in line to push for regulation on everything from gay marriage (shocking! to those on the religious right) to steakhouses (shocking! for PETA).

    My general guideline: if there is ample existing options that fill a need cheaply and easily then just perhaps the government doesn’t need to get involved and pick winners and losers.

    I have a young child and will likely soon have another. It’s trivially easy to plan around her – I can drive, look for different flights, pay extra to pick my seats, fly Southwest, or choose to deal with being separated. Thanks for your moral outrage on my oppressed self’s behalf, but the market is operating just fine here.

  31. Don’t come begging me for dry cleaning money when my kid vomits on you because you HAD to have that seat next to my kid. You want my brat for a transcontinental flight? By all means enjoy!

  32. Is anyone else just confused that mommypoints’ email address is hotmail? What is this, 1994?

  33. I so agree Gary. And I raised four children, and traveled with them. I traveled selectively and carefully and did my homework in advance. This just should not be legislated and practically speaking I cannot imagine the enforcement of this, and the creation of additional entitlement issues. Yikes. And yes, I did fly Southwest a lot during those years and not as much now that I have different priorities.

  34. I don’t get the argument that Congress shouldn’t regulate this issue. The airline industry is the single most regulated industry in the country, In fact, there are numerous regulations pertaining to seating already. Why is law a step too far?

    The airlines are happy to put profits before the safety of small children, and most here are inclined to let them get away with such despicable behavior. No thanks.

  35. The libertarian in me say no to legislation.

    The business man in me says the airlines brought this on themselves. They are a regulated business (not on fares, but on countless other items), subject to oversight. In that situation you shouldn’t over monetize your offering to the point that you irk a powerful lobby. When major newspapers are writing stories about you separating mothers from pres-school children, its time to act. You are already wearing a kick me sign. The data is in, the efforts of the ticket agents are not cutting it.

    Stick us families in the back, near the potties. Chances are we will make countless trips there anyways. The elites will love you for it anyways.

    That said, I paid Airtran its $60 extortion (booking) fees to keep my kids with my wife and I last April.

  36. @sunrise089
    So, let’s take steakhouses. You do understand that they (and restaurants in general) face an enormous number of food regulations specifically to prevent them doing things that violate societal standards? A simple one — by law, they cannot serve cat or dog meat. Why not? It is socially unacceptable (it shocks the conscience) of most people in this country. That’s true even though there are large populations who don’t find it shocking.
    I am not first in line for ALL regulation. But I’m definitely somewhere on the line for SENSIBLE regulation. Airlines should not needlessly separate parents and children, they should not deny passage to the elderly or disabled, they should not sit young or disabled passengers in exit rows, they should not forego safety inspections, and they should not employ incompetent (or deranged) pilots.
    If they do these things, it is reasonable for society to step in and promulgate regulations to stop them from doing so.
    (And let me just be clear — I don’t see any reason why steakhouses shouldn’t be able to serve cat or dog meat, since it doesn’t affect any actual human being other than the presumably voluntary consumer. The market can easily handle that issue.)

  37. If tall people have to pay more for seat preferences, then so should parents. No one is forced to have children, except in Mississippi.

  38. There is another aspect to this argument. Flying AA I did just what AA wanted me to do and paid extra money, when booking the flight, so that my wife and I could sit together. Had a connection in Dallas, they changed the type of aircraft they were using and changed our seats, and they weren’t next to each other like I had paid to have. I spoke to a agent at the gate and he stated that the plane changed and it wasn’t their problem. That he’d do what he could to have to sit together, like he was doing me a favor and not simply providing me the service I paid for, but he couldn’t guarantee it. Luckily he did get us together for the flight out to CA, but honestly if he didn’t they would have given us the big not our problem, kept the extra money and blamed it on plane change. So even paying in advance has no guarantees.

    Stop complaining about parents wanting to sit next to their kids. If i had one I would want it sitting next to me. Have we not had flight attendants touched inappropriately? Passenger touching other passenger inappropriately? No parent in their right mind would want their young child sitting next to a stranger.

    The airline change their model to gain more money and in the process have apparently turned the passengers against one other.

  39. “If there are seats together at a price premium, pay the premium to the extent it’s worth some amount of money to sit together.”

    Afterall, airlines are just extorting the virtues of paying for adjoining seats and we all believe in extortion, don’t we?

    After paying for the checked bag, and the carry on bag, and the seat itself, and the food, and the water, and the entertainment, shouldn’t we be paying for use of the toilet aboard, too?

    And what about the evacuation slide, I’ll bet the airlines could make a fortune charging for use of that.

  40. I thought the extra fee was actually for a better seat. Two cheap seats are no longer available next to each other, so you’re being asked, if you want to sit next to each other, to pay for the more expensive seats. If that’s the case, Gary, perhaps you should have highlighted this fact. The other option for the airline is to simply claim the flight is full if there are no contiguous seats if there’s a minor in the booking. It’s a lose-lose situation, but if that’s the law, the airline, even though it doesn’t want to leave money on the table, may have to do so.

    My guess is, if this is implemented, airlines will move to a seat selection fee for the cheapest seats. Since most won’t pay the fee, airlines can easily accommodate families at check-in.

  41. @Larry

    You keep stating that assigned seat fees for families are involuntary versus assigned seat fees for other travelers. Without knowing why others wish to seat together I don’t know if they consider their choice “voluntary”.

    Even so, the choice is voluntary as the family chooses which airline and flight to select. Southwest is popular with families because they there isn’t assigned seating so they have an advantage when booking close to departure.

    Perhaps a compromise for the benefit of infrequent flyers is to require acknowledgement if the party can’t be seated together (i.e. “your party is not seated together based on your manual seat selection and/or we are unable to assign seats together. Please check box if you are okay with this arrangement or select an alternative flight”.) This will also avoid MommyPoints concern that the law will make it harder for families to travel together. If we require a parent to sit with a child under 5, then the family will be required to book under separate PNR.

  42. I think some people have reality issues because not everybody is a frequent flyer, not everybody is reading blogs, and not everybody is looking at seat guru to find out which is the best seat. Sitting which a child under 5 for free should be a right because they need attention and it’s not like ” yeah you should seat me and my friend together for free.” After a certain age it’s ok to be seperated but the age is not the same for everybody. And for the people saying fly southwest or fly in the back. Can families not fly an airline that has useful miles or get good seats because they need to sit together? Just my 2 cents…

  43. @Segments:
    I say they are EFFECTIVELY involuntary since there are real reasons outside of convenience or desire that parents would feel compelled to pay the fee. Those reasons are safety (I honestly wouldn’t want my child setting next to some of the commenters in this thread) and consideration (some of the commenters in this thread honestly don’t want to be seated next to my child).
    Just as it is not reasonable for the airline to charge me for not separating my child from me, it is not reasonable for me to expect someone else to look after my child for me. Therefore, the airline is effectively forcing me to either 1) be rude and endanger my child or 2) pay them for the privilege of not being rude and not endangering my child.
    To me, that is qualitatively different from offering to upgrade my seat for a fee. Could I choose to leave my kid sitting next to Gary, or Toula, or Sunrise while I’m ten rows away? Not realistically, no. (Well, my kids are old enough to do so, this is just an argument of principle).
    But I just thought of a solution: a $100 fee to guarantee that you wont be seated with an unaccompanied minor on either side of you.

  44. Gary-
    I highly doubt that any of this stuff ever affects you. I am guessing that you fly a ton and have status with every airline out there.

    I have a 6 month old and he has flown on two trips so far. Prior to being a parent, I never had a problem with families sitting together and (obviously) still don’t.
    It always seemed that on flights with one or two kids, they always seemed to be sitting in close proximity to me. Oh well, that’s life deal with it.

    Oh- I also never did and still don’t have a problem with families boarding early.

  45. The current system works. I just flew Southwest on full flight. Two sets of parent + kid needed to be seat together. Flight attendant asked for volunteers. Done.

    We don’t need more government regulations.

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